The Herald Magazine - - V&A DUNDEE SPECIAL -

of big is bale­ful. “Ar­chi­tects de­sign big vol­ume and big vol­ume is very dan­ger­ous some­times,” Kuma sug­gests. “Big vol­ume can kill the en­vi­ron­ment. In the 20th cen­tury de­sign­ing big vol­umes is very heroic. Ar­chi­tects are very proud of do­ing that. But now I feel a shame to do that kind of thing.”

You would put it that strongly? “Yeah. Ar­chi­tects should be as hum­ble as pos­si­ble and as care­ful as pos­si­ble. It’s not a heroic pro­fes­sion at all. It’s anti-heroic.”

This is swim­ming against the cur­rents of ar­chi­tec­ture over the last 30 years (at least). But maybe the tide is mov­ing in Kuma’s di­rec­tion. In the 21st cen­tury ar­chi­tec­ture is about sus­tain­abil­ity, about re­duc­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

The col­lapse of, first, the bub­ble econ­omy af­ter Black Mon­day at the end of the 1980s and then the Ja­panese tsunami in 2011, which killed more than 19,000 peo­ple and was the great­est dis­as­ter to hit the coun­try since the US dropped nu­clear bombs on Hiroshima and Na­gasaki, has trans­formed the de­bate about ar­chi­tec­ture in his home­land. “In Ja­pan we changed our way of think­ing. Be­fore, most Ja­panese thought the con­crete build­ing was much stronger. But the tsunami changed that men­tal­ity.”

Maybe that shift in at­ti­tude can be seen played out in the com­pe­ti­tion to build Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic sta­dium. Ha­did’s prac­tice won the orig­i­nal com­pe­ti­tion in

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